Sep 20, 2019

Average U.S. student debt hits record

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The class of 2018 graduated with a record average of $29,200 in loans to help pay for a bachelor's degree, reports USA Today.

Why it matters: It was unusual to graduate with a high amount of debt a few decades ago, but "we have depressed ourselves into a mindset in which $30,000 in debt is acceptable for a degree," Mark Huelsman, an associate director at the left-leaning think tank Demos, told the newspaper.

The big picture: Some schools are trying to address affordability and debt concerns for the cost of an education, but students often use loan money to cover the cost of living expenses.

  • The University of Michigan and the University of Virginia introduced aid programs to help some students pay for classes.
  • New York offers free tuition at some public colleges for residents whose families earn up to $125,000.
  • New Mexico announced a free tuition plan this week for any state resident who attends a public school.

Yes, but: These plans, like many of the free college proposals floated by 2020 Democrats, are geared toward public institutions — meaning that those attending private universities across the country still have to shoulder the burden themselves.

  • Worth noting: The richest and most prestigious private universities often offer extensive financial aid packages of their own. For example, Harvard and Stanford both expect families that make up to $65,000 to contribute nothing — and Stanford offers no tuition charges for families making up to $125,000.

By the numbers:

  • Two out of three of last year's college grads owe more than 2017's.
  • Students who attended college in the Northeast have the highest average debt.
  • Students in Connecticut had the highest average at $38,650, and students in Utah had the lowest at $19,750.
  • "Black students and those from low-income backgrounds were more likely to have debt at graduation," per USA Today.

Go deeper: Debt-free college: Where the 2020 presidential candidates stand

Go deeper

Debt-free college: Where the 2020 presidential candidates stand

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Beto O'Rourke, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Sen. Cory Booker. Photo: Getty Images.

A clear divide exists among 2020 Democrats who are rolling out plans to tackle the student debt crisis, whether tuition-free or debt-free policies are the way to win voter support.

By the numbers: Student debt in the United States has reached $1.5 trillion, and it is responsible for much of millennials and Generation X's anguish.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 8, 2019

Morehouse College debt relief will assist parents

Robert F. Smith gives the Morehouse College 135th Commencement May 19 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

Billionaire Robert F. Smith's pledge to pay off the Morehouse College class of 2019's student loan debt, previously estimated to be a $40 million gift, will cost $34 million and will "now include federal educational debt amassed by parents," Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: Student debt in the U.S. has reached $1.5 trillion, according to the Center for American Progress, and the class of 2018 graduated with a record average of $29,200 in loans to help pay for a bachelor's degree. Black students are also 20% more likely than others to need federal student loans. The USC Race and Equity Center found this year that public higher education lacks resources to support black students from admissions to graduation.

Go deeperArrowSep 21, 2019

Deep Dive: Higher education's existential crisis

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Photos via Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

U.S. colleges and universities — historically cornerstones of society — are wrestling with a wave of rapid changes coming at the U.S.

The big picture: Higher education institutions — private, public, for-profit and not — are buckling in the face of demographic shifts, the arrival of automation, declining enrollment, political headwinds and faltering faith in the system.